OM Focus: Sam Morshead (LI 2000-05)
Sam Morshead (LI 2000-05) is the Digital Editor at thecricketer.com.
What were your sporting highlights/memories from Marlborough?
So many, where to start?! Two dramatic rugby matches in the Junior Colts and Colts 1st XVs against Wellington – losing by a single point one year, then 3-0 the next – stand out. So does being the first official captain of Marlborough College FC (up until my final year we were known as Granham Casuals as the sport was not formally accepted by the school). Making a half-century on the XI against Eton, winning the house football with Littlefield (who at the time were a bit of a historic sporting laughing stock) and setting up a five-a-side tournament in my boarding house which I believe still takes place every year, nearly two decades later (LUFA – if you know it, you know it).
What were your first steps into journalism and was that always your preferred career path?
I knew I wanted to be a sports journalist from the age of 12. I went to Swindon Town games with my dad, got home and rattled out dismal accounts on the family PC. On the Colts cricket tour of Sussex in 2003, I wrote match reports and put together crayon-drawn wagon wheels of the Marlborough batsmen’s innings (yeah, I know!). At Marlborough I edited the Newsletter and even briefly put together a satirical magazine for Littlefield, before my housemaster stepped in and politely asked me to stop taking the piss out of my peers in print. During my time at university, I did regular work experience on the sports desk of the Swindon Advertiser, juggling it with time in the newspaper’s archives as I put together my dissertation. After around 18 months of on-off work experience, I found myself in the right place at the right time when a trainee position came up on the desk. That was my leg-up. From there, I have worked as the south west Football League reporter for the Press Association, the chief sports writer of the Swindon Advertiser, launched a website in Wiltshire, been a sports reporter at MailOnline and currently I am the digital editor of the fastest-growing cricket news website in the world, thecricketer.com.
Most memorable interviewee?!
Paolo Di Canio. The former West Ham player was the Swindon Town manager for the first nine months of my stint as chief sports writer at the Swindon Advertiser. I was 24 years old, in a senior reporting role and tasked with coming to terms with this enigmatic footballing juggernaut. He often turned up late for his press conferences – once we were called for a 2pm start, the first question was asked at 5pm – and his answer could stretch into the dozens of minutes (from memory, the longest was 45 minutes. For a single question!). His politics were entirely at odds with my own, he was combative and emotional and rarely saw both sides to an argument, but wow was he interesting to listen to. Those nine months were perhaps the most eventful of my career (with the possible exception of the recent cricketing summer), and made me as a young journalist, teaching me discipline, commitment and temperament.
Your role at the Cricketer and covering the World Cup – dream come true?
It was a privilege of a lifetime to lead a cricket publication during the insane summer we all witnessed. I joined The Cricketer as digital content manager of a website which was barely fit for purpose in November 2017. Task one – renovate. We launched a new site three months after I joined and from there on in we have gone from strength to strength. Traffic is up 1,700% since then, this year we won the ECB’s Outstanding Coverage of Domestic Cricket award, and we have brought in revenue allowing us to increase the size of the team from two to five. All that led to this summer; a most remarkable summer, a summer I will never forget. I was lucky enough to be at 20 of the 48 World Cup matches, covering both semi-finals and that infamous final. I was at Lord’s for the day Jofra Archer and Steve Smith went hammer and tong. I saw Ireland skittled. I was at Finals Day, and the last 50-over final at Lord’s for the foreseeable future. For a kid who has always loved cricket and loved writing even more, it has been really rather special.
Advice to aspiring young Marlburians who may want to follow the same route etc
Write, write, and write a little bit more. Put yourself out there. Send your work to those in positions of influence in the industry. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask more questions than you think are necessary. Show why you, as a young person, have more skills than many journalists your elder (broad knowledge of social media, video editing skills, coding and so on are a crucial part of the game – and you have the ability to force your way in because of what you know).
When I was five years old, my great grandmother gave me a framed script of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ and many of those words resonate.
Learn to walk with famous people, and people you admire, without forgetting who you are and what your job is.
Don’t be afraid to risk upsetting people by running a story – journalists aren’t liked, period. Your family and friends will still love you, though, don’t worry!
You’ll be harangued by the public, by players, by teams and executives. Don’t flinch. It’s part of the job. I was banned twice by Swindon Town – the team I have supported since I was six – and it hurt horribly. But it was because of honest reporting. Be honest. Be truthful. And no knave or fool will be able to derail you.
Don’t expect to be well paid, but expect to love the job you get to do. And sometimes, that is more important.